Changing value through cued approach: an automatic mechanism of behavior change

Journal name:
Nature Neuroscience
Volume:
17,
Pages:
625–630
Year published:
DOI:
doi:10.1038/nn.3673
Received
Accepted
Published online

Abstract

It is believed that choice behavior reveals the underlying value of goods. The subjective values of stimuli can be changed through reward-based learning mechanisms as well as by modifying the description of the decision problem, but it has yet to be shown that preferences can be manipulated by perturbing intrinsic values of individual items. Here we show that the value of food items can be modulated by the concurrent presentation of an irrelevant auditory cue to which subjects must make a simple motor response (i.e., cue-approach training). Follow-up tests showed that the effects of this pairing on choice lasted at least 2 months after prolonged training. Eye-tracking during choice confirmed that cue-approach training increased attention to the cued items. Neuroimaging revealed the neural signature of a value change in the form of amplified preference-related activity in ventromedial prefrontal cortex.

At a glance

Figures

  1. Task procedure.
    Figure 1: Task procedure.

    (a) Participants were endowed with three dollars and told that after making a series of auction-based choices, they would have an opportunity to use these $3 to buy a snack. During the auction phase, participants were presented with 60 items, one at a time, on a computer screen. They bid by moving a mouse cursor along an analog scale that spanned from 0 to 3 at the bottom of the screen. The auction was self-paced, and the next item was presented only after the participant placed the bid. (b) During training, participants were instructed to press a button when they heard a tone (occurring after a variable delay based on a staircase) but before the image disappeared from the screen (1 s after it appeared). Images appeared on the screen one at a time, and ~25% of items were associated with a tone. Trials were separated by a jittered intertrial interval (ITI) with a mean duration of 3 s. GSD, Go-signal delay. (c) During the probe, participants were instructed to choose one of two items that appeared on the screen to the right and left of a central fixation cross. Participants were told that a single trial would be selected and honored for real consumption, meaning they would receive the food item they chose on that particular trial. Participants had 1.5 s to make their choice, and trials were separated by a variable intertrial interval with a mean duration of 3 s. RT, reaction time. (d) The auction described in a was repeated at the end of the experiment.

  2. Behavioral results for cue-approach and cue-avoidance studies.
    Figure 2: Behavioral results for cue-approach and cue-avoidance studies.

    (a) Proportion of choices of the Go item in pairs of high-value Go versus NoGo and low-value Go versus NoGo items for each of the four cue-approach studies (1– 4) as well as for study 4 retest. Number of repetitions reflect number of individual stimulus presentations during training. Significance level reflects odds of choosing the Go versus NoGo item. (b) WTP before and after training for Go and NoGo separately for items in the probe high-value Go versus high-value NoGo pairs (top) and low-value Go versus low-value NoGo (bottom) pairs. The sample includes all participants from studies 1– 4 of cue approach. Significance level reflects interaction for time by item type (Go or NoGo) in a repeated-measures linear regression. n = 102 participants. (c) Proportion of choices of the Go item in pairs of high-value Go versus NoGo and low-value Go versus NoGo (light gray) items for the two cue-avoidance studies. (d) Proportion of total choice time during probe that gaze position was on the high-value Go or NoGo item in a pair for trials when Go or NoGo items were chosen separately. The sample is a subset of study 4 (n = 18 participants). Eighteen participants had their eye positions recorded with an eye tracker while performing the cue-approach task. Significance levels reflect repeated measures linear regression. Effects for d are discussed in Results. Error bars, s.e.m. (a,c) and within-subject s.e.m. (b,d). ***P < 0.0001, **P < 0.001, *P < 0.01, +P < 0.05 (two-sided tests).

  3. Imaging results from the probe phase.
    Figure 3: Imaging results from the probe phase.

    (a) Parametric effect of the number of times each high-value Go item was chosen during probe. (b) The difference in the parametric effect of the number of times each item was chosen during probe between high-value Go and high-value NoGo items. This analysis was only run in an a priori mask of mPFC that encompassed the medial PFC by combining Harvard-Oxford atlas regions (frontal pole, frontal medial cortex, paracingulate gyrus and subcallosal cortex) falling between x = 14, x = −14 and z < 0. x-y-z values reported in standard Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) space. Heatmap color bar ranges from z-stat = 2.3 to 3.3. Map in a was cluster-corrected at a whole-brain level. P < 0.05, two sided linear regression.

  4. Imaging results from the last training run.
    Figure 4: Imaging results from the last training run.

    (a,b) Modulation of number of times each high-value Go item was chosen (a) and NoGo item was chosen (b) during probe. This analysis was only run in an extensive mask of mPFC that encompassed the medial PFC by combining Harvard-Oxford regions (frontal pole, frontal medial cortex, paracingulate gyrus and subcallosal cortex) falling between x = 14, x = −14 and z < 0. Heatmap color bar ranges from z-stat = 2.3 to 3.3. Maps were cluster-corrected within a priori mask of mPFC, as in Figure 3b. P < 0.05, two sided linear regression.

  5. Sorting and pairing procedure used for studies 1-6, 8 and 9.
    Supplementary Fig. 1: Sorting and pairing procedure used for studies 1–6, 8 and 9.

    Diagram of the sorting and pairing procedure used for studies 1 through 6, 8 and 9.

  6. Sorting and pairing procedure used for study 7.
    Supplementary Fig. 2: Sorting and pairing procedure used for study 7.

    Diagram of the sorting and pairing procedure used for Study 7.

  7. Proportion of choices of the Go item for studies 7 and 8.
    Supplementary Fig. 3: Proportion of choices of the Go item for studies 7 and 8.

    Retest of Probe after 1 week and 1 month for Study 7. Proportion of choices of the GO item in pairs of high value Go versus NoGo (dark grey) and low value Go versus NoGo (light grey) items for each of Study 7, Study 7 Retest 1 (1 week after original training), Study 7 Retest 2 (1 month after original training) as well as Study 8 (where participants heard a tone, but were not required to press a button). The larger effect size in Study 7 may be due to the fact that in this study only 30 items were presented during training. This will need to be examined in future studies to control for the difference in chosen items below the median.

  8. Proportion of total gaze time during retest probe of study 4.
    Supplementary Fig. 4: Proportion of total gaze time during retest probe of study 4.

    Proportion of total choice time during retest probe that gaze position was on the high Go (black) or high NoGo (white) item in a pair for trials when Go or NoGo items were chosen separately. The sample is a subset of Study 4 Retest. Seventeen participants had their eye positions recorded with an eye tracker while performing a probe on average two months after cue-approach training. Effects are discussed in the text. Error bars reflect within subject SEM.

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Author information

  1. These authors contributed equally to this work.

    • Tom Schonberg &
    • Akram Bakkour

Affiliations

  1. Imaging Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA.

    • Tom Schonberg,
    • Akram Bakkour,
    • Ashleigh M Hover,
    • Jeanette A Mumford,
    • Lakshya Nagar,
    • Jacob Perez &
    • Russell A Poldrack
  2. Department of Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA.

    • Jeanette A Mumford &
    • Russell A Poldrack
  3. Department of Neuroscience, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA.

    • Russell A Poldrack

Contributions

T.S., A.B. and R.A.P. designed the experiment, T.S., A.B., A.H.M., L.N. and J.P. conducted the experiment, T.S., A.B., A.H.M. and J.A.M. analyzed the data, and T.S., A.B. and R.A.P. discussed the results and wrote the paper.

Competing financial interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Figures

  1. Supplementary Figure 1: Sorting and pairing procedure used for studies 1–6, 8 and 9. (96 KB)

    Diagram of the sorting and pairing procedure used for studies 1 through 6, 8 and 9.

  2. Supplementary Figure 2: Sorting and pairing procedure used for study 7. (78 KB)

    Diagram of the sorting and pairing procedure used for Study 7.

  3. Supplementary Figure 3: Proportion of choices of the Go item for studies 7 and 8. (185 KB)

    Retest of Probe after 1 week and 1 month for Study 7. Proportion of choices of the GO item in pairs of high value Go versus NoGo (dark grey) and low value Go versus NoGo (light grey) items for each of Study 7, Study 7 Retest 1 (1 week after original training), Study 7 Retest 2 (1 month after original training) as well as Study 8 (where participants heard a tone, but were not required to press a button). The larger effect size in Study 7 may be due to the fact that in this study only 30 items were presented during training. This will need to be examined in future studies to control for the difference in chosen items below the median.

  4. Supplementary Figure 4: Proportion of total gaze time during retest probe of study 4. (105 KB)

    Proportion of total choice time during retest probe that gaze position was on the high Go (black) or high NoGo (white) item in a pair for trials when Go or NoGo items were chosen separately. The sample is a subset of Study 4 Retest. Seventeen participants had their eye positions recorded with an eye tracker while performing a probe on average two months after cue-approach training. Effects are discussed in the text. Error bars reflect within subject SEM.

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  1. Supplementary Text and Figures (872 KB)

    Supplementary Figures 1–4 and Supplementary Tables 1–5

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